By Tali Richman
June 17, 2016
Dan Mason took the small, white die and rubbed it quickly between his hands before tossing it onto a table Friday in the Secretary of State’s office. He rolled a six.
Janeen Sollman stepped up next – she rolled second because ‘M’ comes before ‘S’ – and threw a three.
And that’s how Mason became the Independent Party of Oregon’s nominee for House District 30.
The Independent Party’s May primary for the Hillsboro-area seat ended with a tie between two write-in candidates: Mason, the Republican candidate for the seat, and Sollman, the Democrats’ choice, both racked up 41 votes apiece.
Friday’s unusual roll, the first such tie-breaker in at least 25 years, means Mason will appear on the ballot in November as both the Republican and Independent Party nominee.
“The fact that it’s coming down to a dice roll isn’t exactly your idea of the democratic process, but I do frankly think it’s a tell of how close this election could be,” said Mason, a community manager with a property management company. “I’m fortunate to be on this side of the dice. I’m just excited for the next stage of the campaign.”
The tie triggered a recount June 15, which showed there was no mistake during the Independent Party’s first state-funded primary as a recognized major party.
So the power to pick the party’s nominee landed with Secretary of State’s office, as state law calls for the candidates to “meet publicly to decide by lot who is nominated.”
“This certainly makes it clear that every vote counts,” said spokeswoman Molly Woon.
Friday’s dice roll was the second time lots were drawn, after the Washington County elections office mistakenly carried out a tie-breaker of their own June 15.
Sollman won that contest – her representative drew a higher card from a deck – before county officials realized the tie-breaker had to be done by the state.
“Because it’s a state position, the state would be the one to oversee the drawing by lot,” said Mickie Kawai, the Washington County elections manager.
Preston Mann, a spokesman for House Republicans, said the victory offers an advantage in the competitive swing-seat race. The seat is being vacated by Rep. Joe Gallegos, D-Hillsboro, and the Republicans see it as a chance to chip away at the Democrats’ 35-25 House majority.
During the 2014 general election, Mason lost to Gallegos, the incumbent. Gallegos received 10,426 votes, Mason got 8,518 and Libertarian Kyle Markley brought in 1,860. There were also 50 write-ins, meaning Gallegos won a minority of all votes cast.
“Having the Independent Party nomination is a reflection of a candidate’s commitment to representing the views of the entire community,” Mann said, “not just those associated with a party label.”
Sollman, who works for a Washington County education software company, said she was disappointed in the results of the dice roll but that it won’t affect her campaign.
“It doesn’t stop my work in House District 30,” she said. “I’ll continue to be that strong independent voice.”
– Talia Richman